There has been much talk of late around an event known as the Great Resignation; an anticipated higher proportion of employees quitting their jobs in 2022. And whilst according to recent research by Microsoft, more than 40% of the global workforce are considering leaving their employers this year. 

Randstad’s quarterly Workmonitor report regularly indicates that a third of employees are always looking for new opportunities. Curiously these stats roughly match LinkedIn’s monthly active users base, at around 40%

So, whilst we might expect an increase in employees leaving this year, the Great Resignation may be more media hype than reality. In Australia, many candidates who wish to leave their employer will have done so in the run-up to the end of the year, not in March as suggested by commentators. This is because we traditionally see an increase in turnover around December to January.

As a result, if we’ve not seen mass resignations by now, it’s reasonable to ask if we actually will. In any case, organisations always need to look at the best ways to retain their staff to avoid the need to recruit and train new hands. 

in 2022

We can expect several factors to come together to increase the likelihood of staff looking to go elsewhere. After two years of working from home, limited holiday options, rolling lockdowns, homeschooling and economic uncertainty, people are burnt out.

These push and pull factors are then driving a fever pitch of activity that leaves employers desperately trying to keep their people whilst also doing anything they can to attract new staff. It can leave hiring managers and leadership teams feeling exasperated as they drive to rebuild after the challenging years prior. 

what other major workforce trends can we expect in 2022?

extended leave 

COVID-19’s impact on Australians’ mental health has been considerable. Despite varying degrees of luck depending on where each of us is based, we’ve all done some hard time stuck inside a pandemic-shaped prison cell. It should come as little surprise, then, that one in five Australians has reported high psychological distress as a result, and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if I were to learn that the real figure is considerably higher. 

Obviously, this strain didn’t suddenly vanish as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, so we need to be mindful as we move forward that retaining talent may require more flexibility than it has in the past. It would be dangerous to think we can continue as we used to. Instead, mental health must be top of mind for employers as we feel out the best path from here. 

As a start, I would say that encouraging people to take leave as needed – a day here and there or for more extended periods that enable a complete reset – will be crucial to ensuring a healthy and happy workplace. To organisations that can, I would even suggest extending leave offerings for 2022 as a means of helping workers acclimatise to our new post-COVID reality. Doing so will almost certainly help to retain top talent, which we all know saves money over the long term. 

career reflection

The COVID experience has caused Australians to take stock of their lives in a way not seen for at least a generation. Over the last 18 months, as people have sat in cramped home offices or with work paraphernalia strewn across their kitchen counters, they’ve started to ask questions, and some of the answers they’ve come to have caused them to look at their careers and their lives beyond with a more critical eye.

While we’ve already discussed the fallacy of the Great Resignation, the fact remains that fewer workers are now willing to stay in jobs that leave them feeling unfulfilled – almost one in four Australian workers is actively seeking other employment in our post-COVID reality and we saw a 26 per cent jump in Aussies moving from one company to another in October 2021, compared with the same time in 2019.

Employers who don’t want to risk losing top talent would do well to investigate the causes of staff dissatisfaction and take steps to address them.

using culture to attract and retain talent

Another way to maintain employee satisfaction is to focus on the culture being developed within the workplace.

Culture is an extremely effective tool in retaining talent and it’s a shame that the human connections we build through work are all too often overlooked when talking about employee satisfaction. 

Unfortunately, culture has taken a real hit thanks to the pandemic, so it’s worth making it a point of focus as we return to shared spaces. Anything to help foster a sense of community and belonging will pay dividends in 2022 and beyond. 

the great migration

Instead of the Great Resignation, I’m hopeful we’ll see a Great Migration back to our working spaces as the year rolls along. However, even with our high vaccination rates and comparatively low number of COVID-related deaths, there is still considerable hesitancy being felt by many Australians when considering a return to the office. And I’m sure the persistence of the Omicron variant is doing very little to assuage these fears.

Despite this, it’s important that we do not enable these concerns to cause us to act irrationally by implementing fear-based policies that are detrimental to workers’ wellbeing, workplace culture, or business prosperity. Balance is the key to breaking the fear cycle we’ve all inhabited for the last 18 months or so, and through open communication and cooperation, I believe we can find a perfect balance of working in the office and working from home that will leave all parties satisfied.

We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that this great return to the office does not mean a return to the old ways, rather an opportunity to create a better way of working for everyone.

diversity, equity & inclusion

While talk around DEI has been an important and ever-present part of the discussion in recent years, we can expect it to ramp up even further in 2022. This is a matter that’s very much being driven by the general public and workers specifically, with it being one of the top issues candidates investigate during the hiring process.

Increasingly, staff want organisations to take a public stance on social issues and expect the place they choose to work to be a force for good in their community and the world at large. In an ever more politicised world, organisations can expect and should be prepared for greater scrutiny both internally and externally as they navigate these waters.

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